Turnover Turned Upside Down


The restaurant business is notorious for ridiculously high turnover and the negative effects it has on the overall business model; higher labor & food costs, poor customer service, and declining sales. All of this makes for a tough road for operators to run a successful restaurant, improve sales, build market share, and create opportunities for their employees. There are more hidden costs in high turnover then in almost any other area of a restaurant P&L. So what can you do to combat turnover and put your restaurant back on the road to success?

1. Ensure you have a clear VISION for your restaurant. If you are a franchisee of a company owned entity and you operate under that umbrella, be clear on the vision, but also establish a clear vision of your own that supports the company vision for the organization you operate. Talk about your VISION all the time. Listen for how your employees talk about the vision.
2. Hire only TOP PERFORMERS for your restaurant. Hire people that make the people around them better. Do not settle for mediocre. Don’t hire anyone just looking for a job. You are hiring future leaders for your organization and that is how you have to look at it to ensure long term success. Yes, it will cost you more up front and yes it will save you thousands of dollars on the back end. Figure out what you’re looking for and hire for ONLY those things. Don’t settle. If you identify 10 attributes you want to see in your team, then make sure they have all 10. Every single one of them.
3. Enforce the STANDARDS. Do not allow the flow of business to dictate how well your organization adheres to standards. Make sure everyone knows the standards and is empowered to achieve those high standards.
4. PROMOTE FROM WITHIN. Do not hire top level positions from outside your organization. Whenever possible create opportunities for the team in your restaurant instead of going outside.

Several years ago at Chipotle we recognized that the talent in our restaurants was better than the talent we were getting from outside the organization. Many times the crew was better than anyone we could hire, even though the incoming candidate had “experience”. We learned experience is overrated. The desire, ability and effort someone puts forth showing they want an opportunity is worth more than anything printed on a resume. There will always be a time when you have a candidate that is just the right fit for the culture and deserves an opportunity, but those should be exceptions to the rule of promoting from within. When we made the move to promoting from within I cannot tell you the impact that had on our culture. We had happy, excited, empowered, and motivated people who accomplished more than they ever thought possible for themselves. And then they did this for their team. This is the key to reducing turnover. When an individual feels like they are being invested in, cared for, and developed they become the biggest champion for the vision of your organization and want the teams they lead to experience the same success they did.

All of a sudden you have this grassroots, organic, powder keg of people development in your organization and it truly is unstoppable. All of a sudden you have a team who won’t allow you to hire someone who truly cannot be a top performer. They take pride in who is working in their restaurant, because they truly think of it as THEIR restaurant and as leaders that is exactly what we want to have happen. When you make a mistake and hire someone who doesn’t fit the culture, your team will tell you about it.

You have a culture where people help each other out, look out for each other’s success, and celebrates with someone when they get a promotion instead of getting upset they didn’t receive one. You have a culture where everyone is empowered to feel confident in their ability to contribute to the overall success of the restaurant and organization. You have a culture that is high energy and fun to be around.

All of these things contribute to drastically reducing turnover and the costs associated with it. You will see sales increase, food costs go down, guest satisfaction improve, operations you are proud of, and labor efficiency increase dramatically. But what you will notice as much as any of these things is that you have a vibrant pipeline of top performing employees to seed the future growth of your organization, and a sustainable model to do it all over again, with even better results.

Published by

Bobby Shaw

I am a former restaurant company executive with a passion for developing existing and future leaders to achieve high standards. I love helping organizations develop strong people cultures with an emphasis on leadership development that result in top-notch operations and better business results. I have over 30 years in the restaurant business in all facets of operations, from my start at McDonald's in the grill area in 1984 to overseeing 200+ restaurants with Chipotle Mexican Grill from 2002-2012 to leading Freebirds World Burrito's resurgence from 2013-2016 to working with the Salad and Go restaurant startup as CEO in 2016/2017. My real world experience transcends the typical operations background with a focus in leadership development and coaching. At the core of my background and experience, I believe that how leaders get results is just as important as getting them, and what got them where they are, won't necessarily get them where they want to go. I work closely with individual leaders and companies to improve their results through understanding how their strengths impact the overall results. My goal is to help business leaders and companies learn how to leverage the strengths of their employees by understanding their strengths and what they’re good at, and using that knowledge to positively impact their entire organization.

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